Through a promotion from AMC Theaters Laura and I were able to go see Freedom Writers for free on Friday night. This deal is open to all teachers in the U.S. and Canada, through February 1st. I guess the fear is that if it goes through the 2nd people will be able to see it over and over again.
Anyway, I went into this movie with pretty low expectations. I like Swank, especially as she brings Oscar gold to my Aaron Spelling theory. For those who know not of this theory and it’s undeniable truth, I’ll have to post on that another time. But, I’ve seen this movie where the pretty white teacher saves the urban youth. Sadly, I premenisce, no "Weird" Al song coming from this movie.
It was meant to be an uplifting tale about how a caring and motivated teacher can reach a group of students about whom others have forgotten. And she does reach these students. Over the course of two years the racial and gang lines that divide these students outside the classroom cease to exist inside room 203.
Here’s the problem with this movie. If you’re a teacher, it’s extraordinarily depressing. What I took from this movie is not that one teacher can make a difference. I know that already, I feel I already do, or else I wouldn’t be able to do this job well, nor continue to do it at all. Without giving too much away, and if you don’t want to know more about it than I’ve already written, please go read one of the other wonderfully interesting posts below, in order to reach these kids Mrs. G, has to overcome the resistance of her department chair, the jealousy of her more experienced and tenured colleagues, and a lack of resources.
To do this, she has to, get this, take not one, but two part time jobs during the school year, buy books for her students out of her own pocket. go over the head of her chair and principal to the school board, and oh, yeah, watch her marriage disintegrate and fall apart.
Did you read that last part? In order to do the job that needs to be done to help her students, she has to forfeit her marriage. The message of this movie is, you can help disadvantaged students. You can do truly fantastic things, and help kids as a teacher, if you are willing to take two outside jobs give up your personal life, and lose your marriage. God, that’s awful!
This movie ends up being an indictment of the educational system. And it makes me sad.
On another note, this movie was set in 1994, and I did not see one hi-top fade. I realize they were on the way out by then, but still. Here’s a wonderful list of people who wore high-top fades. At least one of these students should have had one.
Fades not-with-standing it’s a pretty decent movie. Swank does a nice job, and doesn’t end up paralyzed, dead, or dating Steve Sanders so that’s a plus for her. And this teacher she portrays really did do something wonderful for her students and is continuing to try and do wonderful things for other students, so that is also a plus. I just couldn’t shake the sadness I felt at all she had to do just to do her job. I can’t think of many other professions where you have to take two outside jobs just so you can do your primary job well.